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In spite of Audi’s reputation as a style leader, it was the BMW we couldn’t stop ogling. The Motoren Werke ’s designers nailed the surfacing, and as our test went on, we remained intrigued by the way changing light brings out the bulge and sinew in the 4-series’s shape. Cruising from Hollywood to the start of our mountain route, the 435i was perfectly serene—hushed inside, with barely a hum from beneath the hood—and it delivered a relaxed ride. But in the presence of the Audi, even its stiffened springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars failed to fully rouse this M Sportiest 4-series. Comparatively speaking, the driver is isolated from wheel and suspension movements, and the slow steering seems so numb that it’s the pulsing of the inside-front brake rather than any feedback through the wheel that indicates you’ve reached the cornering limit. At 0.90 g, that limit is handily topped by the Audi, which feels like the better balanced and livelier car. This is especially surprising given the S5’s greater forward weight bias. The BMW’s numbness saps driver confidence, as the car doesn’t provide enough information to form a complete picture of what’s happening at the tires.
The other car in the i brand, the i8, is also a commercial success so far, the company having actually sold so many of them they are now on a 6 month waiting list! This, however, could become a problem. The CEO of BMW thinks that while customers are able to wait 6 months for the delivery of such an advanced vehicle, any longer than that would turn people away from the electric sports car.
Very well, for my peculiar tastes. There’s a firm but velvety feel to all the controls, and the shifting is the nicest of any Honda I’ve ridden. Most of my Honda 500 Single experience has been on XLs and XRs, which have a rather loose, good-enough-for-dirt set of mechanical clearances in their moving parts (or maybe my bikes are just worn out.) The GB500, by comparison, feels closely machined and well-oiled. Everything clicks and slides with precision. Also, despite current noise regulations, the engine manages to sound much less like a Lawn-Boy than previous Honda Singles or Yamaha ’s old SR500. There’s a nice hard-hitting clout to the exhaust note at speed, a sound that makes you think of light aircraft, like the prop on a 65-horse Continental slapping against the air.
11. Rebuilding the engine. Most bikes from the 70s are tired, pooped out and thrashed. A paintjob won’t get it down the road any quicker. You may need to bite the bullet with an engine rebuild, and once again, the vintage races could be your best source. The Yamaha TT500s (with the same motor as the XT and SR500s) are probably the most popular bike in all flattrack races, week in and week out. With a 540cc kit, a Megacycle cam, a Sudco 36-38mm round slide carb kit and just about any pipe, you’ve entered another world of performance.
One of the bigger obstacles is the shipping of flammable and hazardous materials, which describes many replaceable automotive components. Car batteries can be bought through Amazon.com, but they cannot be returned. The same issue arises with motor oil and other fluids. Places like AutoZone usually refund customers on old battery cores and dispose of old oil free of charge.
That really isn’t how things happen with the Toyota hybrids. The gasoline motor still does a vast majority of the work on a Prius. The purpose of the electric motors is to supply most of the low speed torque and scavenge energy during braking/gliding. This isn’t like a Tesla, Leaf, or even a Volt where a good portion of the energy to drive the vehicle comes directly from the battery that is charged via plug-in. Toyota batteries, in particular, are overbuilt for this relatively light load and are historically very reliable. Consumer Reports did a test on a 2002 Toyota Prius 10 years and 200k miles after they did their testing on a 2002 Prius when it was new. Fuel economy, acceleration, and braking numbers were all spot on.
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